Research Programs from BAA - Environmental Sciences

1.0. Overview

The Environmental Sciences Division of the Army Research Office (ARO) supports fundamental research in the Atmospheric Sciences. The need for research in the environmental sciences stems from the impact that the environment has upon virtually all aspects of Army activities. As military technology become ever more complex and sophisticated, both systems and operations are increasingly influenced by the natural environment and variability in environmental conditions. Despite continuing Army efforts to develop an all-weather capability, environmental conditions still constrain Army operations. The Army is also committed to be a national leader in environmental and natural resource stewardship for the present and future generations as an integral part of its mission. Responsibilities in this arena include the restoration of sites contaminated through prior Army activities, as well as achieving a state of environmentally sustainable operations on all military installations, particularly those utilized for training and testing. The natural environment is, by nature, a multifaceted and dynamic system so that there is an increasing need for multidisciplinary approaches to address the complex research issues that presently characterize atmospheric sciences.

1.1. Atmospheric Sciences

The Army has the responsibility to provide fundamental knowledge of the atmospheric boundary layer over land to all U.S. armed services. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield depends on a full knowledge of atmospheric conditions and their effects on operations, weapon systems, and the Soldier. It requires an ability to estimate atmospheric details at specific locations and at present and future time to maximize strategic weather advantages. Knowledge of the atmosphere and its effects on Soldiers and sensor systems are essential for command and control as well as visualization of the battlefield at all echelons. The Army lead responsibility for chemical and biological defense requires detailed knowledge of the threat once it is induced into the air. In garrison, Army training and preparedness depend on accurate representation of atmospheric test conditions and on physically correct portrayal of atmospheric processes and effects in simulations.

The research program is broadly based to address the wide spectrum of conditions and influences of the atmospheric boundary layer on Army operations and systems. It is divided into three general research areas of the boundary layer problems: atmospheric effects on sensors and systems, characterization of the atmosphere at high resolution, and management of atmospheric information

1.1.1. Atmospheric Effects on Sensors and Systems

The Army depends heavily on propagation of electromagnetic and acoustic signals through the atmosphere for detection, ranging, and operation of smart munitions as well as reconnaissance and information dominance of the battlefield. Atmospheric turbulence can severely impact the performance of optical and infrared sensors as well as acoustic detection systems by affecting the propagation, imaging, and coherence of the received signals from active or passive systems. Furthermore the effects of surface and natural environmental conditions on propagation of images and signals must be considered because of the near-ground operation of many Army systems.

1.1.2. Characterization of the Atmosphere at High Resolution

Research efforts concentrate on increasing Army knowledge of physical processes in the atmospheric boundary layer at the engagement scale of the battlefield. This scale, characterized by horizontal distances to 20 km at resolutions at 10's of meters and times of seconds to hours, is the most inhomogeneous and changeable portion of the atmosphere.

The principal research concern is the diurnal evolution of the turbulent and stable atmospheric boundary layer. Research topics span a full spectrum of atmospheric boundary layer dynamical conditions including, but not limited to parameterization and scaling of boundary layer processes for micro-scale and mesoscale predictive models; surface conditions from simple to heterogeneous terrain elevation and slope, vegetation, and moisture; surface energy budgets; scale interactions; temperature and moisture fluctuations, especially as they affect the atmosphere as a medium for propagation of acoustic and electromagnetic signals; and natural or induced obstructions to visibility. A principal focus of the boundary layer dynamics is their application to prediction of the mean and fluctuating concentrations of chemical and biological agents in realistic terrains on appropriate scales.

Comprehensive measurements of wind velocity, temperature, moisture, surface energy exchanges, and fluxes at resolutions showing their scales of variability in the atmospheric boundary layer are essential for advancing understanding of boundary layer processes affecting Army operations and systems. The variables should be measured in space and time to clearly define the evolution of three-dimensional physical processes within a volume of interest. Such measurement programs should highlight both the instrumentation development and the interpretation of the physical processes from the sensed data.

These topics are considered from perspectives of theory, field experiments, and analyses of the faithfulness and validity of models and simulations of these processes. The research results are expected to contribute to improved models of boundary layer processes for visualization and field use through strong interactions with appropriate Army laboratory scientists.

1.1.3. Management of Atmospheric Information

Providing useful atmospheric effects information to the Soldier and decision maker is the focal point of the Army's atmospheric sciences effort. The information needs of each user may be very different. Furthermore, the information must be in a form that is readily understood in light of the user's needs. At the same time, the path from data to information must have a fundamental scientific basis. The science issues behind the information management include an ability to obtain data from multiple sources, friendly or adverse, quantitative and qualitative; fusing the data into a comprehensive representation of the present and future atmospheric state; understanding of the uncertainties of the data and their effects on the application; and communicating the complex four-dimensional atmospheric in the language and application of the user. To accomplish the goals of information management, improved computational methods are needed to assimilate and integrate the data, assess the atmospheric present and future state, and disseminate the user's needed information in a timely and effective manner.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. Gorden Videen, e-mail:, (919) 549-4247


Last Update / Reviewed: June 17, 2014